In a sector that’s flooded with cheap Chinese products, D’chica, a brand for infants and young girls, treats children’s fashion with the same seriousness as fashion for adult women.
Apparel, footwear, and accessories aimed at children is a segment choc-a-bloc with players, especially in the unstructured market. The shopping districts of each of India’s towns and cities are full of colourful wares to entice children. The influx of Chinese products at throwaway prices has further added to the flood. Of course, if you are looking for quality products at reasonable prices, they are few and far between.
D'chica, founded by sisters-in-law Vani Chugh and Richa Kapila, was started with the intention of filling this gap. Established in June 2014, D’chica is a bootstrapped player that has grown rapidly and made a mark in the segment. The brand currently offers products in four key categories, namely footwear, apparel, hair accessories, and jewellery for girls. Richa works out of their office in Delhi, while Vani is based in Mumbai.
Vani says, “Most of the current market players design and manufacture typically ethnic products like mojaris or kolhapuris, sell cheap products from China, or are exorbitantly priced. Our products have the quality of branded products while being competitively priced.”
The founding duo
Vani, an alumna of the Film and Television Institute of India and a former journalist, handles the marketing and sales side of the business. Richa, with her design background, is the creative brain of the startup. Richa is married to Vani’s younger brother. Richa, 26, says, “My niece Devyani (Vani’s daughter) is my muse. D’chica has its genesis from the pieces I created for her. At the same time, Vani was finding it difficult to find quality options while shopping for Devyani. So, we felt that this segment had a lot of potential.”
The brand retails through major e-commerce portals including Hopscotch, Firstcry, Amazon, and Jabong. The products also sell through Firstcry’s brick-and-mortar stores.
Vani, 35, says, "Now we are selling an average of over 7,000 SKUs a month. Apart from making a mark in the metros, the overwhelming response from tier-2 and tier-3 towns such as Indore, Vizag, Visakhapatnam, Patna, and Shillong has been a pleasant surprise."
D’chica currently has three office spaces in Delhi and a sales office in Mumbai. The children’s wear startup closed the last financial year (FY 2016–17) with a revenue of over Rs 2 crore and plans to take this to Rs 5 crore for FY 2017–18.
Working in tandem
Vani and Richa started off with their savings and have been ploughing the returns back into the business. Vani says,
In the initial days, I used to juggle between multiple roles that stretched from being our brand’s social media manager, sales and marketing manager, and customer care executive all rolled into one. Richa was our one-woman army of designer, production manager, inventory manager, packing and dispatch executive!
While Richa continues to be the creative head, the team has recently hired an operations head to be a part of D’chica’s growth journey.
Since 95 percent of the firm’s revenue comes from the online domain, they are focused on the same. They will look at expanding their presence in brick-and-mortar stores in the next phase of their planned expansion.
Surprisingly, the team’s biggest challenge wasn't sales. The founders realised that in this business, the idea was to get fresh fashion out every month while ensuring minimal dead stock. That meant getting the right balance between the number of SKUs to produce, predicting buyer behaviour, and liquidating slow-moving stock fast.
Most of their products continue to be crafted by hand. Initially, Richa used to make most of the products herself along with a worker. Now she has a full-fledged team that works under her close supervision. D’chica has now grown to 15 people working primarily out of their Delhi offices.
The team spirit
Both the founders make it a point to meet up at least once a month since they are based out of different cities. The positives of working with somebody who is a close family member are many. Vani says, “We have a good rapport since I knew Richa even before she married my brother. She was a part of our family’s extended friend circle and so that rapport passes into our work relationship as well.”
From a one-room office to their first day after launch that saw eight orders coming in through Facebook, D’chica has come a long way. Vani and Richa believe this is just the beginning.
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